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Rapper Common surprises students at NY school, donates money

Oscar and Grammy winner Common surprised a group of New York students by donating $10,000 to help their teachers buy supplies like calculators and science kits.

The rapper-actor partnered with the nonprofit and Burlington Stores to give Renaissance School of the Arts in Harlem the funds on Thursday. Students cheered loudly after they learned the musician was at their school.

"I always felt like one of my biggest duties and purposes is to hit the youth with something that's inspiring, hit young people with something that can motivate them to be in their greatness," Common, 45, said in an interview with The Associated Press after the event.

Common encouraged the students to keep their grades up and to persevere — in school and in life. He spoke about pushing through when setbacks occur, telling the students about not getting some acting roles he wanted and competing with other musicians to create a song for the film "Selma." His song from the movie about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. — "Glory" with John Legend — went on to win the Academy Award for best original song in 2015.

Common, born Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr., said he started writing poetry and songs at age 12.

"I was always into writing but I didn't know how good I was until my mother told me that and one of my ex-girlfriends in high school, she was like, 'You always used to write good love letters,'" he said, smiling.

Two students on Thursday showcased their talents by performing original poems they wrote. Jadon-Li M. Antoine, an aspiring musician, actor and dancer, said Common's visit motivates him to keep aiming for his dreams.

"It gave me a little bit more hope. It gave me that extra push," the 14-year-old said.

"I thought it was cool because (Common) does music and he's an actor, and I really look up to him," said 12-year-old Khalil Green, who wants to be a veterinarian, writer and actor. "He's one of the hottest in the game."

Common was on-site with his mother, Dr. Mahalia Hines, an educator and member of the Chicago Board of Education. She said she remembered spending her own money to buy essential materials for her classroom.

"A lot of the materials you needed to teach, we weren't given the money to do it so you just went out and bought your own. If you had to have notebooks ... you bought them because there were many lessons you definitely would have not been able to do without them," she said.

Burlington has been raising money from its 599 stores to help other schools, asking customers to donate $1 or more. It began on July 9 and goes through Aug. 19.

James Franco Talks About Picking Up Girls At the McDonald’s Drive Through and “The Deuce”!

Check out James Franco talking about the new show on HBO “The Deuce” and how he developed some of that personality growing up and picking up girls with fake accents!

UK lawmaker calls Austen among 'greatest living authors'

A British legislator has told Parliament that Jane Austen — who died two centuries ago — was one of Britain's greatest living authors.

Andrea Leadsom quickly corrected herself Thursday after her comment provoked unwanted laughter in the House of Commons.

Leadsom's comment in Parliament came days after the 200th anniversary of the Austen's death, when Britain unveiled a new 10-pound ($13) note, featuring the "Pride and Prejudice" author.

U.K. bookseller Waterstones tweeted in jest that it was moving Austen's volumes into its "living authors" section.

Leadsom was a contender for the Conservative Party leadership in last year's contest.

2 top executives retiring from Library of America

At age 35, the Library of America is in transition.

Longtime president Cheryl Hurley and longtime editor-in-chief Geoffrey O'Brien are retiring at the end of the year, the publisher told The Associated Press on Thursday. Hurley will be succeeded by Library of America publisher Max Rudin. A replacement is being sought for O'Brien.

The Library of America, which began publishing in 1982, releases hardcover editions of classic American writing. While initially focused on such late authors as Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne, the library has focused more on living writers in recent years. Volumes this fall will feature Philip Roth, Ursula K. Le Guin and John Ashbery. The publisher also has an online column, "The Moviegoer," dedicated to criticism of film adaptations of literary works.

Ryan Seacrest to return as host of 'American Idol' revival

It’s official: Ryan Seacrest will return to “American Idol” to serve as host for ABC’s reboot of the singing competition.

>> Read more trending news

Kelly Ripa made the announcement on Thursday morning’s episode of “Live with Kelly and Ryan.”

“We’ve been talking about it for a little while but I am happy to confirm … with absolute confirmation that Ryan Seacrest is returning (as) the host of ‘American Idol,’” Ripa said.

“(I’m) very, very excited,” Seacrest said. “First of all, I don't know if you've ever been in a 15-year relationship and then, for a reason that you really don't know, you break up … I thought, 'Gosh, it'd be great to get back together at some point.’"

The announcement followed three months of negotiations, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Seacrest will join pop star Katy Perry, who was confirmed in May as a judge for the series, on the reboot.

ABC announced in May that it planned to bring back “American Idol” for the 2017-2018 season. The show aired 15 seasons on Fox before the network announced in 2015 that 15th season would be its last.

>> Related: 'American Idol' set to return to television

“‘American Idol’ is a pop-culture staple that left the air too soon,” Channing Dungey, president of ABC Entertainment, said in a news release.

The show launched the careers of artists including Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, Carrie Underwood and Adam Lambert. Contestants on the show have sold more than 60 million albums and made more than 450 Billboard No. 1 hits, according to ABC.

Television networks return to old obsession with Simpson

Television networks returned to the scene of an old obsession by casting aside regular daytime programming Thursday to cover O.J. Simpson's parole hearing in Nevada on an armed robbery conviction.

When Simpson put down his head, raised it with a smile and said "thank you" after he was granted freedom following nine years in prison, comparisons to his acquittal for the 1994 murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman proved irresistible for many watching.

NBC's Lester Holt said it was "a reaction not unlike one we saw in a Los Angeles courtroom in 1995."

ABC, CBS and NBC, news networks CNN, Fox News Channel, HLN and MSNBC, and even ESPN and CNBC showed the parole board hearing live. For the broadcasters, it meant pausing soap operas and talk shows. For the news networks, it meant a brief respite from coverage of President Donald Trump. All were chasing the ratings achieved by the long-running coverage of Simpson's murder trial more than two decades ago.

Commentators offered harsh assessments of the odd spectacle that NBC's Savannah Guthrie dubbed "the parole hearing of the century."

CNN's Jeffrey Toobin, author of "The Run of His Life: The People vs. O.J. Simpson, said the hearing was "an absolute disgrace."

"Seeing this just reinforces the belief that he is a deeply delusional and self-obsessed narcissist and good luck to America when he is let out," Toobin said.

Enhancing the sense of a television time warp, Toobin and a fellow CNN commentator, Avena Martin, engaged in a heated argument about Simpson's guilt or innocence in the murder of his wife.

While most of the networks let the hearing play out onscreen, ABC commentators injected their opinions. George Stephanopoulos said that Simpson's daughter, Arnelle, was more effective in five minutes of testimony than her father was in a half hour. Analyst Dan Abrams was incredulous about a letter that Simpson's lawyer read. "This is absurd," he said.

Analyst Rikki Kleinman on CBS said Simpson needed to show remorse and instead seemed ornery at times. She and ABC's Deborah Roberts were incredulous that Simpson seemed intent on relitigating his robbery conviction.

Nonetheless, Abrams said the decision to grant Simpson parole was not a surprise, given the parameters set by the board, even if many Americans hoped that the 1994 murder case would be a factor. The board was determining whether Simpson had been sufficiently punished for trying to steal sports collectibles in a Las Vegas hotel room.

Social media offered the biggest contrast to the coverage from 1995. Quotes from Simpson's hearing spread on Twitter, making it instantly apparent which lines were sticking in viewers' heads. "I've basically lived a conflict-free life," was one Simpson line widely quote, as was "I'm not a guy who lived a criminal life."

"You don't have to be extremely attentive to realize this is not an accurate reflection of his life," Toobin said.

ESPN's award-winning documentary, "O.J.: Made in America" and the FX miniseries, "The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story," revived public interest in the case and, with ESPN, likely played a part in that network's decision to televise the parole hearing live. Comedian W. Kamau Bell at one point tweeted that it felt like he was watching unedited footage from "Made in America."

Hours before the parole hearing, the A&E Network announced it was making a two-hour movie, to be televised in October, about Simpson's armed robbery case.

Ryan Seacrest back as host of 'Idol' when it returns on ABC

Seacrest in!

Ryan Seacrest will be back hosting "American Idol" when it returns for its first season on ABC. Kelly Ripa made the announcement on Thursday's "Live with Kelly and Ryan," which she has co-hosted with Seacrest since he joined her in May.

"I am happy to confirm ... that Ryan Seacrest is returning as the host of 'American Idol,'" said Ripa as the studio audience whooped.

Seacrest said he was excited to be doing it again.

"I don't know if you've ever been in a 15-year relationship and then, for a reason that you really don't know, you break up," he said. "I thought, 'Gosh, it would be great to get back together at some point.'"

Seacrest had a grand history with "Idol" during its smash-hit run on Fox from 2002 through 2016. Reclaiming that job now gives him an additional role in the Disney family, which owns ABC and produces the syndicated "Live."

His potential return to "Idol" had sparked much speculation since ABC announced in May that it would revive the talent competition. The program airs from Los Angeles and "Live" airs weekday mornings from New York. But the 42-year-old Seacrest is no stranger to a packed work schedule and cross-country flights.

"You can have all the tickets you want," he told Ripa, "and you can come back and forth with me any weekend."

Seacrest will also continue his syndicated Los Angeles morning-drive-time radio show, as well as a nationally syndicated Top 40 radio show, from his iHeartMedia studio in the same Manhattan complex where "Live" is telecast. He also hosts and executive produces ABC's annual "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve with Ryan Seacrest," and is a busy producer of series in which he doesn't appear, including "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" and its many spin-offs.

ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey called Seacrest's talent "limitless, and I can't think of a more appropriate person to honor the 'Idol' legacy as it takes on new life than the man who has been there through it all."

On Fox, "Idol" dominated TV in the 2000s and minted stars like Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson and Kelly Clarkson, while making its judges, such as Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell, household names. It was the No. 1 series for nine years, peaking with 30 million viewers each episode in 2006. But by its last season the average audience had dipped to 11 million and skewed older, and NBC's "The Voice" surpassed it in popularity. Fox eliminated it. Even so, in today's television world, an audience of 11 million would rank it among TV's top 20 shows, a fact that clearly didn't escape ABC's notice.

On the final Fox edition, a hopeful Seacrest told viewers, "Goodbye — for now."

The nationwide search for the first ABC-aired "Idol" begins next month. ABC has not announced a premiere date.

Former intelligence director James Clapper is writing a book

James Clapper, the former director of National Intelligence who has clashed with President Donald Trump, has a book deal.

Viking told The Associated Press on Thursday that Clapper, 76, will write about his 6 1/2 years as head of National Intelligence during President Barack Obama's administration and his long career in military and government service. The book is currently untitled and scheduled for 2018.

Clapper, who stepped down at the end of Obama's second term, will cover everything from the killing of Osama bin Laden to the intelligence documents leaked by Edward Snowden. According to Viking, Clapper also will give "the truth" about alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election. Trump has disputed such stories and said that Clapper agrees with his assertion that the Trump campaign did not collude with the Russians. Clapper has said he was not in a position to know about collusion, but believes the Russians did attempt to influence the campaign, a view widely held in the intelligence community.

He has also criticized the president for firing FBI Director James Comey and said that democratic institutions were "under assault" by Trump. Clapper said in a statement Thursday that he will offer a "warts and all" account of his experiences and that friends had urged him to tell his story. Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House, said in its announcement that Clapper will address such issues as transparency in government and the ethics of intelligence gathering and will "counter the narrative about surveillance of American citizens."

Clapper was strongly criticized after Snowden's leaks contradicted his Congressional testimony in 2013 that the National Security Agency was not "wittingly" involved in gathering data on millions of Americans. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., later said that Clapper had engaged in "a deliberate decision to lie to the American people about what their government was doing." Clapper has called his comments "clearly erroneous," while also saying he did not think the question could be answered with a simple "yes" or "no."

"I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful manner by saying 'No,'" he told MSNBC after the Snowden documents came out.

Financial terms for his book were not disclosed. As is standard for former intelligence officials, his manuscript will be vetted by the government before publication to check for classified material.

Former intelligence director James Clapper is writing a book

James Clapper, a former top intelligence official who has clashed with President Donald Trump, has a book deal.

Viking told The Associated Press on Thursday that Clapper will write about his years as director of National Intelligence during President Barack Obama's administration and his long career in military and government service. The book, scheduled for next year, is currently untitled.

Clapper, who stepped down at the end of Obama's second term, said in a statement that he will offer a "warts and all" account of his experiences. According to Viking, Clapper will give "the truth" about alleged Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. Trump has disputed such stories and said that Clapper agrees with his assertion that the Trump campaign didn't collude with the Russians. Clapper has said he wasn't in a position to know.

UK royals make pretzels, visit German cancer research center

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge joined a rowing regatta, visited a cancer research center and made pretzels in the university city of Heidelberg on the second day of their visit to Germany.

Prince William and his wife, Kate, took to the waters of the Neckar river on Thursday afternoon, coxing two opposing boats in a race of rowers from Heidelberg and its twin city Cambridge.

With German onlookers cheering the royal couple everywhere they showed up, they also practiced shaping pretzels at a British-German market in downtown Heidelberg, tried a local vintner's wine and made sugar canes, the German news agency dpa reported.

"This visit is an enormous honor for us," Mayor Eckart Wuerzner said.

Earlier Thursday, William and Kate also toured the German Cancer Research Center, peering through a microscope for a glimpse of the facility's work. British researcher Michael Milsom, an expert in the development of blood stem cells, said he could never have dreamed of presenting his research to his future king.

The Baden-Wuerttemberg state governor, Winfried Kretschmann, gave the couple a specially made cuckoo clock with a British flag. Prince George and Princess Charlotte were given teddy bears with their names embroidered on them.

In the evening, the Duke and Duchess were returning to Berlin to attend a reception at the city's famed Claerchens Ballhaus, one of the last remaining Berlin ballrooms, which opened in 1913.

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